3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Wonderful Treat,
This review is from: Camille Saint-Saens - Henry VIII - Theatre Imperial de Compiegne [DVD] (DVD)
I think this comes into the category of French Grand Opera. It is on a historical subject, in 5 tableaux (4 Acts) and includes an extended ballet sequence. The libretto covers the period of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon from the time of Anne Boleyn's arrival until Catherine's death, when she has been replaced by Anne as Henry's wife. Henry's execution of Buckingham takes place off-stage in Act 1, forming a foreboding climax to the act. The love of Gomez (the Spanish ambassador) for Anne forms an important sub-plot throughout the work.
The sets and costumes are traditional in this production and work very well. They include a game of royal tennis to open Act 2. The performers are all excellent. Phillipe Rouillon really looks the part as Henry, acts and sings superbly. The same can be said of Lucile Vignon who makes a beautiful Anne Boleyn and Michele Command is outstanding as Catherine. Alain Gabriel as Gomez looks and acts the part but has a slightly lighter voice than the others.
It was a real treat to watch this opera. It is full of glorious music with magnificent arias for Catherine and a stunning seduction scene between Henry and Anne in Act 2. Act 3 is extremely powerful with Henry and Catherine facing the Synod to achieve his annulment. He rejects the Papal Legate's comments and establishes the Church of England and separates from Catherine. The whole tableau is a brilliant set piece. The ballet sequence is stunning with excellent music.
It is difficult to understand why this work is not regularly performed. It is very successful, interesting and dramatic. I recommend it to any opera lover.